When he’s not busy fulfilling the dream of LEGO-reared architects the world over, sustainability-minded Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels has proven himself to be quite the master of multi-tasking with an ever-expanding portfolio that includes a trash incinerator that doubles as a ski slope, a mini-city hidden beneath an undulating farm-roof, and a tetrahedron-shaped apartment tower-cum-urban park.
Next up for the 38-year-old maverick starchitect and his Copenhagen- and New York-based firm?
How about a big ol’ cell phone tower in downtown Calgary that pulls double duty as a LEED Platinum mixed-use development complete with nearly 350 rental apartments and a massive storm water management system that will “recycle rain water for washroom toilets and outdoor irrigation, reducing water use by millions of litres per year.”
Bjarke Ingel Group (BIG)’s second Canadian commission following Vancouver’s rubbernecking Beach and Howe tower, the $400 million Telus Sky Tower project will stand 58-stories tall amongst the unexciting skyline of Alberta’s largest city while serving as “one of the most technologically innovative and environmentally-friendly sites in North America” according to a press release issued by Telus. The Canadian wireless provider will act as the 750,000-square-foot development’s primary tenant, claiming about a third of the 430,000 square feet of office space spread across the the building's first 26 floors:
Telus will be the anchor tenant of the office component of the development, which will also include 341 residential rental units, thereby creating a dynamic community with a unique blend of urban living and working. Telus Sky will also support Calgary's burgeoning arts culture, fusing iconic architecture, technological innovation and artistic expression. Telus Sky will feature a unique 5,500 square feet public gallery to ensure the city's commitment to the arts in downtown Calgary continues. Telus Sky will be a destination for citizens to visit and experience local works of art that reflect the region's cultural diversity and creativity.
Deemed by Alberta Premier Alison Redford as an “important investment,” Telus Sky is an all-around ambitious project perhaps most notably in the energy-savings department. When completed in 2017, the svelte glass tower will use an estimated 35 percent less energy than similarly sized buildings with plans to further improve the building's energy consumption profile in so that is consumes a staggering 80 percent less energy than similar developments. Keep in mind that this is Calgary that we're dealing with, Canada's sprawling energy capital (think Houston but with hail instead of humidity) where the oil industry reigns supreme and where office workers scuttle between buildings via an extensive network of skybridges, the world's largest, without having to step foot onto the either sweltering or super-frigid street.
Designed by BIG alongside interdisciplinary Canadian firm Dialog and developed by Westbank with real estate investment trust Allied Properties, this "architectural marvel" hailed as the “most significant next generation property in Calgary’s history” will be located at the current site of the low-rise Art Central building at 100 7th Ave. the near the Space Needle's Canadian cousin, The Calgary Tower, and Foster + Partner’s recently completed — and just slightly taller — Bow Tower.
Unlike that strictly commercial building which serves as corporate headquarters for natural gas heavyweight EnCana, Telus Sky is setting out to transform the transit-dependent, white collar vibe of Calgary’s downtown core with the presence of 32 residential floors that will help keep young professionals in the neighborhood who would otherwise commute home to the 'burbs. “We know Calgarians want their downtown core to thrive — the recent floods showed us just how much the area matters to this city,” remarks Redford.
Adds Ingels, who according to the Calgary Herald, compared the building's design to a "lady standing between a group of cowboys:"
I think a lot of North American cities have suffered from the downtown becoming a corporate core where people only work and then they go home to the suburbs. As a result you get empty streets in the evenings and sleepy suburbs during the day and what the Telus Sky is doing is trying to provide a balanced program ... that gives you a much more 24/7 lively city.
And since this is Ingels, there's a heavy emphasis on walkability (yes, the tower is connected on the retail-dedicated second floor to the +15, the aforementioned network of skybridges throughout dowtown Calgary) and green spaces which will include rooftop gardens and what appears to be a massive living wall on the building's lower floors.
The unveiling of Telus Sky has also provided the telecommunications giant — and, interestingly, North America’s largest lease holder of LEED Platinum space — with a primo opportunity to discuss its vital role in recovery efforts following the catastrophic flooding, the worst in Alberta’s history, that hit the province last month. To date, Telus has contributed $2 million to flood recovery efforts across region which, by the way, is currently the midst of its world famous annual stampede.